From the Mountains of Cantal to the suburbs of Paris to the center of Paris:
The story of an itinerary "Auvergnat"
The story begins with André, our grandfather, born into a peasant family with deep roots in the Auvergne region of France. In the years 1929, he decides to leave to Paris to earn his living. He becomes a waiter « garçon de café » .
At the dance hall in rue de Lappe, (famous ball where the Auvergnats - term as it is used in Paris for all immigrants coming from the Massif Central - go and dance) he meets Marie who becomes his wife. They are 21, and soon, they wish to own their own business. She comes from Cantal too but as she is Parisian, Marie quickly realizes that for the success of their business, the choice of the location will be fundamental.
At a time when the bougnats (a bougnat is a coal salesman from Auvergne) leave Paris and move into suburbs, Marie and André find themselves managing a rental hotel in Colombes in the suburb of Paris. They then move to Courbevoie where they start a new life and manage Le Café des Sports in the city center.
One day André, accepts a reservation for a large party of 20 people inside the Café. It is the first time they have to handle the overall operations of a banquet. The porcelaine service received as a gift for the wedding is the only dinner plates they feel comfortable to serve the clients with and this is convenient. Our grandmother is an excellent cook and both with André, very hard workers, they start to become better known for their expertise in organization and holding banquets. When the chef feels like resigning right during rush hour, Marie handles the situation and takes over the kitchen by herself. They sleep little and each Monday morning at 6:00, they are behind the counter of the Café serving the first glasses of red. All the weekend until dawn and yet again every week...
We are in 1946, Claude, their son is 7 years old. Claude is our father. He sees his parents working hard and leading a life of sacrifices. He grews up in a 'crazy atmosphere' (these are his own words) and soon learns to get his hands dirty. From an early age, he picks up the basis techniques of cuisine and service. Then, he studies at the Hotel School of Paris and has several experiences in hotels and restaurants abroad.
He meets Catherine and marries her. With the contribution of his parents, Claude and Catherine open their own hotel. They live on-site to make things easier to run the hotel any time of day and night. From there, Claude and Catherine are all the time in two places at once. When they are not at the front desk answering phone calls, greeting arriving guests, collecting payment, answering requests for assistance or resolving issues relating to employees or the property, so when they are not busy with all of the above, Claude handles carpet installer jobs on the floors or goes to the Rungis market and buys geranium flowers for the garden and the window boxes of the rooms, replaces the night auditor when he calls off. And on her side, Catherine helps the girls clean up the rooms or to serve breakfast and at the same time she watches her daughter (me, Laurence, hello! ) playing in the garden of the hotel. And when in the middle of the night, the night auditor stuck in the elevator calls for help or when the room 105 has a leak in the bathroom, Claude wakes up and goes.
Over the past 40 years, our family takes over about 10 hotels that they entirely renovate,. They thus become specialized in boutique hotels and found their hotel brand Paris Hotels Charm .
Today, the expertise of Paris Hotels Charm is based on the experience of several generations. We, the three children, Laurence, Antoine and Stéphane work to perpetuate the family traditions and preserve the cultural heritage.
Claude often thinks of the time when, with a telephone, a notebook and a pencil, he was hand-taking the clients' reservations. It was 40 years ago and I was 2 years old.